Ethiopia declares state of emergency over riots in Oromia region

Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency as violent anti-government protests are spreading in its Oromia region, the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said Sunday.

The aim was to deal with "anti-peace elements" that are "jeopardizing the peace and security," the broadcaster said.

"The continued violence in some parts of Ethiopia has claimed the lives of people and caused widespread destruction to property. We have to stop this soon," Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in a televised address.

The Oromia region, which is populated by the country's largest Oromo ethnic group and includes Addis Ababa, has seen repeated flare-ups of protests in recent months.

The latest wave of rioting followed the deaths of more than 50 people in a stampede sparked by attempts by police to disperse protesters at an Oromo religious festival near the capital a week ago.

Government officials say factories, company premises and vehicles have been burnt out completely or damaged. Many roads leading to Addis Ababa were reported to be blocked.

The newspaper Fortune quoted an official as saying that the state of emergency would remain in force for up to six months. The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said details would be communicated to the public in the coming hours.

The Oromo rallies initially protested plans to extend the boundary of Addis Ababa amid concern that it could lead to farmers being displaced. Those protests led to security forces killing more than 400 people, according to Human Rights Watch.

The boundary plan was abandoned, but resentment is still festering among the Oromo community, which feels excluded from political and economic power.

Last update: Sun, 09/10/2016 - 14:25

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